The wheeling and dealings that turned the once mighty Gaborone United Sporting Club from a position of football power and professionalism to the shadows of regress and relegation could have never been predicted. STAFF WRITER, MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE sees the club’s kingpins shifting sands to control the club’s once bold investor, Nicholas Zakhem, who unfortunately never saw his grip diminishing.
Gaborone United was once the envy of other premier league teams. But nobody saw the popularity of the club fading away as internal blood wars gradually ate away the soul of Moyagoleele. In the permitting impressive years of 2010 and 2011, GU had opened an insurmountable gap between itself and other elite clubs in as far as football commercialisation is concerned.
A committee chaired by the brains of Dr Nkomazana was to later study and comprehend strategies and all modalities that were to enable GU house to stand forever. Among others, the GU constitution was amended and an entity called Soccer Dynamics was instituted as a vehicle driving the commercial wing of the team.
Through it, business guru, Nicholas Zakhem was the majority shareholder with 51 percent while the remaining 49 percent was given to the club’s society, Gaborone United. All was set and done as GU was an instant marvel both in the boardroom and on the field of play. This is the reason the memory of the team’s 2010 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League performance is still alive and vivid to those who love the club with unbridled passion.
No any other GU’s die hard follower will forget the club’s historic battle against South Africa’s power house Orlando Pirates. The club had also brought in the auspicious mettle of one Tymon Katholo, as the President to bolster a team well versed with football administration. But eight years from now, GU’s cross town rivals Township Rollers have knocked The Reds off their perch. GU is instead, a picture of exasperation that is walking through storms of debts and regrets.
While it is increasingly becoming difficult to put together the fall of The Reds, all football conspiracy theories point to a heavy fall out amongst GU’s file and rank kingpins. Rather, it is slightly common knowledge that in the winter of 2015, elections happened. They could not further tighten the team’s football ambition, but instead triggered the team’s fall from the dizzy highways.
Until now, nobody at the heart of Moyagoleele knows exactly what happened between the saviour Katholo and the messiah Zakhem — all information of the club point fingers of blame towards ballooning egos clash between the two men. Zakhem is a man whom many of his critics have always questioned his football exploits. But what is not in doubt is that he has transformed GU from a mediocre club to a championship material. He managed to pay the best players in the League and went on to win several championships.
Those close to him believe that he is a good schemer who knows how to maneuver the unpredictable football terrain such that most football administrators do not like crossing his path. There is rumour in the football circles that he has never lost a football matter especially those involving the fight for players.
On the other hand, Katholo is regarded as one of the shrewdest administrators in local football although of late he has seen his hands dipped in GU blood. His admirers credit him with honesty, principle and fairness. But this is a man who has investigated Zakhem while working as DCEC chief. As the team was rattled by alleged election rigging in 2015, Katholo later emerged as a lead character of a group that filed a case of defamation against Zakhem.
It is stated on several platforms that the two men are two poles apart in the running of GU. Katholo stood for the position of chairmanship but lost to Okaile Rapula. He is now leading beleaguered GU as an ‘elder’ of the club. Despite his perceived strained relationship with Zakhem, mostly arising from the football politics, many still believe that he is a man who acts on facts. But others continue to question his integrity as an elder of the club.
It is further feared that this apparent attitude if not addressed will cost GU many silverware. Ironically, Katholo as an elder of GU is expected to come face to face with Zakhem to negotiate better terms for the club to return to glory. On Monday of this week, the business mogul expressed his interest in working with whoever is running the club. It remains to be seen if Katholo and co will open their hearts to accommodate Zakhem lest it will be a marriage of convenience.
GU faces a precarious situation they never confronted before. They stand of the brink of collapse should they fail to pay sacked player P400 000. It is either relegation or Zakhem! The current Secretary General of the club co-opted by elder’s committee, Kennedy Ramojela argues that there is no rift between Katholo and Zakhem. He is of the view that elders want proper procedures to be followed for Zakhem to rejoin the team he says he adores the most.
“It is a perception that the two men are not seeing eye-to-eye. Elders want procedures to be followed to the letter for Zakhem to come again on board,” he said. GU is currently toying with the idea of renegotiating with Chippa United where its two players have been purchased. The initial agreement was that Chippa was to pay in installments until next year June.
It was agreed that P 200 000 be paid after registration is finally completed. The second installment, which is P 500 000 is expected to be dropped in December while the last P 500 000 will be completed in June of next year. GU badly needs this money to retrace the redemption road. Zakhem in the meantime is watching as the clock ticks.
A study conducted by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), has revealed that a turnaround strategy is needed to make an elite league body, Botswana Premier League (BPL), a profitable entity.
The study piloted in June and completed in December of last year, depicts a picture of possible improvement where a total of 16 premier league clubs were examined and studied on how they conduct their football related businesses.
It comes out that 54% of premier league club revenue streams are from general sponsorship while a paltry 2% is generated from gate takings. A further 11% of profit is from broadcasting rights and that remains abnormal in a game that should be well known to be propelled by rich television agreement worldwide.
Moreover, BDF XI, Gilport Lions, Extension Gunners, Miscellaneous, Morupule Wanderers , BR Highlanders, Police XI and Prisons XI have all demonstrated a heavy reliance and dependence on sponsors, prices and monthly grants, while the quartet of Jwaneng Galaxy, Orapa United, Township Rollers and Gaborone United have all managed to source revenue streams outside the common and well known sponsor outlets.
Of all the 16 premier league clubs, Jwaneng Galaxy emerges as the top club that is able to attract moneyed sponsors. The study shows that the Jwaneng outfit rakes about P 5 million in sponsorship revenues, followed by their ‘rival brothers’ Orapa United who receive an approximation of P 3 million per football season.
The two clubs are at the fore front because of the footsteps and presence of Debswana in their leadership radar.Coming third is Security Systems whose purse get around P 2.5M from the parent company, GU is on fourth spot at around P 1.5M. Township Rollers is on a distant fifth position with about P 1M per season of individual sponsorship.
The rest of the clubs receive services in kind such as accommodation, playing kits, training kits, fuel and water and soft drinks. This further underlines the struggle to make profit as footballing team in the elite league, the study highlights.
However, from the report, it emerges that only Township Rollers has the capacity to make profit from a good football season. Much of the club revenues are from the sale of its replica jerseys. The club as powered by Jagdish Shah sells about 3000 replicas at a value of P 350 000.It is the only club that sells merchandise from sport chain stores (Studio 88) and according to the report, it is a reliable indicator that shows fans engagement level with the club.
While it emerges from this study that ticketing revenue has a low weight on club’s revenues varying from 2-9% depending on the club, Rollers again is the only club making profit from this front.
But to further underscore the issue of lack of business sense in the elite league, it comes to the fore that there is low fan attendance per home game and this is the major cause of low ticketing revenue.
Gunners however top the table, averaging a total of 5000 supporters per game. Gunners is followed by Rollers at 4000 followers while Miscellaneous comes third with 1700 fans per home game. On average, it shows that 75% of clubs have a fan base while the remaining 25% have absolute nothing.
The report further indicates that many of Botswana’s elite clubs are experiencing financial difficulties because of the model of ownership. “Clubs legal entity form is not homogenous and 25% of them are owned by the government,” the report shows.
The report therefore recommends that clubs should standardized ownership models as this will lose dependency on government.“Furthermore, legal conditions will be the same for all clubs and transparency of the BPL will be enhanced,” the report curtailed.
However, BFA says it knows nothing about the report but one member of the executive committee says the association is addressing all problems bedevilling Botswana’s game.
The member is adamant that all administrative loopholes of the game will be resolved and it is why FIFA project time for change is still on going at regional level.
8 – Numbers of clubs that make financial losses 4 – Clubs do not depend on gate takings 1 – club is self-sustaining
Nikola Kavazovic, Township Rollers’ pragmatic Head Coach, is said to have scuppered a move that was to see Botswana international Magokolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele joining the club in this football calendar.
Instead, the player proceeded to join Limpopo province based outfit, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila F.C. carrying a long face.
It is reported that Shah, the club’s investor, had wanted to sign the left footed midfielder to bolster an attacking front but Kavazovic flatly refused to sanction the move, adding that his squad is solid and strong even without Tsotso Ngele.
According to reports, Ngele was to be offered a contract with a salary scale of P 40 000. Shah believed, and still holds the same view, that Ngele’s name is a powerhouse that was to further market the team and increase its brand awareness in Botswana’s business community.
However, Kavazovic is said to have told some members of the technical team that it is always difficult to coach and manage players who are favoured by Shah.
Ngele is reported to be nostalgic and would want to play for a home team in the stature of Rollers. As things stand, he is not enjoying his stay at Thohoyandou and it explains why his appearances at the club are an oddity.
Ngele had a successful season with Roller in 2012 where he won the Mascom Top 8 Cup under Mike Sithole. He was expected to be guided by Kavazovic to help mount a serious challenge for this year’s silver ware.
Rollers on its own have reshuffled their attacking options over a period of time, losing darling striker Joel Mogorosi to Gaborone United while another robust striker Teenage Orebonye was poached by clubs abroad.
Before the arrival of Kavazovic, Rollers’ technical team bitterly complained last season about the lack of productivity from their attackers but they hoped that the ever-consistent Edwin Moalosi and Ngele, aided perhaps by Segolame who remains in the books, can fire an upturn.
All the while, it is said Ngele will still force his move to Popa and there is hope that his personality and experience will eventually serve to inspire the rest of the attacking options, most notably the younger players like Kago Monyake.
Rollers have always sought to have leaders in their squad, players who have won big games and can bolster the collective belief. Their signing of Mogorosi few seasons ago was rooted, in part, by what he could bring away from the field.
Rollers still wish that Ngele could cut his stay and further negotiate with Kavazovic to sign the player and bring a country wide spread inspiration and determination he possessed after carrying the club to its inaugural top 8 edition in 2012.
That year he won the golden boot playing as a second striker. When he left Rollers, we went straight to command a starting line up with Platinum Stars. A year later, he won the Telkom knockout player of the tournament.
Some members within Rollers fold argue that Shah knew right from the start that he was not going to be able to control Kavazovic and his wishes of signing Tsotso might as well disappear on the furthest horizon.
Remnant of the historic Africa Cup of Nations squad of 2012, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele and Botswana’s first-choice goal keeper, Kabelo Dambe, will never embody the future of the Zebras as long as Adel Amrouche is at the helm, WeekendSport has established.
The duo made this confession in the squad secret WhatsApp group seen by this publication, expressing concern and antipathy about playing for the squad heavily polarised by the coach.
It turns out that the coach has players he favours and prefers, many of who appear in the starting line-up as a long lasting promise to be signed under his stable. The aim is to ultimately recruit them to far flung clubs and earn a commission.
Ngele who remains the only player to have scored the Zebras goal (in open play) at the 2012 edition has endured a rocky affair with the coach.
Not much has been established as to why the affair is in tatters but sources claim that it stretched to a point where Amrouche confronted Ngele’s former coaches at Black Leopards to discuss possible options of side-lining him. The idea was to frustrate the player and kill his confidence as the only player Zebras looked up to.
Ngele, under former coach Peter Butler, was named the squad captain but under Amrouche, he has played cameo roles in World Cup and AFCON qualifiers. Ngele has made three appearances and came once as a substitute in all the 10 games Amrouche managed.
Ngele was hoping for his own great leap forward in an effort to end his nightmare and play for the Zebras especially after earning playing time with his new club, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
Do this day, Ngele has made more than 35 appearances for the Zebras since earning his debut in 2009. Away from The Zebras stage, Ngele made significant contributions at Platinum Stars, the first team he signed his professional contract with. In 67 games, he scored 19 times.
Amrouche’s insistency and promise to make a loud impact in this year’s qualifiers did not bear fruit. Part of the blame is shoved on Township Rollers stopper, Kabelo Dambe. He is accused to have failed to stand strong for Zebras and shipped in simpler goals that cost the team to book a flight to Cameroon next year.
A goal against Algeria on home soil and a goal by Zimbabwe last month could have never gone through had he positioned himself better, critics claim.
Dambe who has more than 44 caps and played all Zebras games under Amrouche feels hard done and had hoped the coach and the nation would protect him. He feels the ambition of the country to qualify mirrors a tomorrow that could never come because of his mistakes.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) General Manager of National Teams, Monnakgotla Mojaki when pressed for interview failed to provide details about the future of the two stars.
He expressed concern that he was never hands on when the squad played the qualifiers. This according to Mojaki, was the case because the coach had barred him from mingling with the players.
“I am sorry I cannot assist you with anything, I know nothing and remember I have not spoken to anybody since I was asked not to come to camp,” he shared.
Both Dambe and Ngele are not only equally unhappy but are also equal in age; both are 30 years and have played for Platinum Stars at one point in their careers.
However, there is information to the effect that the duo made a promise to return one day, and that is when the coach has parted company with the association.